Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Create your own adventure, the grown-up version

I ventured to lower Wisconsin last Saturday for the Dairyland Dare--recruited in the ice age of February by my girl T-bell. She tried to get me to do it last year, but I was out east. Her report then: HILLY as hell, plus hotter than Hell. AND, at least Hell's a dry heat: this was soupy upper-midwest humid hell.

So, I should have known what I was getting myself into. But you can't, until you get there.
We were planning on riding the 200 & 150K routes, respectively, but as we sat in the diner across from the Crazy Cow Saloon and stared mournfully at the weather forecast, we scaled back. Expected highs were over 90 by midday. It's been hot for a while, sticky and wet and unpleasant. Global warming deniers can suck my sweat-stained socks.

Saturday morning, we got up way too early for a recreational activity, in order to get on the road early. Even though we crossed the start line about 0700, the humidity and early sun were brutal--and the first hill came in the first mile. Steep as shit, making me glad I hadn't chowed down right away, lest the burning taste of puky oatmeal and bagel be the hallmark of my morning.
I was drenched in sweat before reaching the first water spot at 15 miles. I was squeezing my fists to force the sweat out, like squeezing a sponge. The hills were no joke. I repeat: the hills were NOT FUCKING AROUND. Whoever says midwest is flat isn't wrong, except for these hidden crevasses where the ice age chased the last mammoths to their exhausted, frozen deaths.
For most of the ride, I amused myself thinking of C. Lander, of Stuff White People Like, and BSNYC, whose clever prose and spot-on critique of cultural things would make them great roommates, or not. But truly, white people like artificial challenges. We like to pay to gather together with our wildly expensive and over-qualified recreational toys and, in a group of like-minded and skilled folks, push ourselves for no good reason--other than to talk about it later. And put photos on facebook.

There were lots of Basement Olympians there. Semi-professional group riders. Dudes who take themselves far, far too seriously. It was great to see people of all shapes, sizes, conditioning, & ages working hard and having fun. I chuckled at the random breakaway guys who zipped past everyone, feeling like Cancellara. 'Seriously, my man, you're in Wisconsin. Chill out and smile, at least.'
A team of overly serious trainers whizzed by me, twice. Their leader was like Dolph Lundgren, and about as humorous. If I could have kept up, I would have, and made inane conversation as we went. But they were chasing PRs and monitoring their wattage, while I was trying to keep my hands from slipping off the handlebars.

Having only done a couple century rides, ever--and both in past two months, as part of a gravel road-race ('race') series spearheaded by Chris Skogen/Almanzo Hundo, whose mission is to run free, self-sustained group rides--it was interesting to see how luxurious this game was. Generous and friendly volunteers everywhere, laden with fruit, water, munchies, etc. Very different from the DIY spirit. Regardless, these events require massive planning and effort by the organizers--that's nothing to sneeze at.

It was a good, brutal mental test. Not knowing the course or how many hills remained effectively obliterated my focus and confidence. I was crying uncle/aunt by mile 30. I re-scaled back my goal for the day: not 200K, not 150, either. I'd do a hundred at respectable pace and be done with it. The money was already spent. It was only my pride preventing me from being rational--and convincing me to soldier through the illusion of pain.

I wasn't alone in the rough waters of self-created self-turmoil. Many others were getting their asses kicked. We ALL chose, and paid, to do it. My friends in the military might have chosen to enlist, but what-all they're confronted with is certainly less of a whimsical adventure. People starving and homeless, ill and ill-prepared, they are facing real challenges. We were simply riding (very expensive) bikes through some hills in Wisconsin.

At a water stop, I texted Tbell (again, how rough is it when my hardship isn't making fire from earth but finding good reception for my vanity phone?) and learned she, too, had scaled back, and was, in fact, already waiting for me at the end.

Good: I knew the end was certain and could 'push' myself the final fifteen miles. Wrong. I was shot and stuffed, tattered and battered, slanted and enchanted. Oh, maybe not the latter. Pavement would have been music to my ears, but I figured headphones were gauche.

Felt like a ton of bricks dropped on me at the end. Discouraging. Ate and zombied about, then drove back. Within a couple hours, we both had false confidence: 'Dude, we TOTALLY could/should have done more... NEXT YEAR, we will...'

1 comment: